Additional Heart Attack Symptoms That Women May Experience
In addition to the common heart attack symptoms, women may experience one or more of the following:
- Tightness, squeezing or pressure in the chest, throat, upper abdomen or neck
- Nausea and indigestion-like symptoms, including heartburn or an upset stomach
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting or sweating that occurs with or without chest pain
- Numbing or tingling sensation in the left arm
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that occurs with or without exertion
- Waking during the night out of breath
- Unexplained severe anxiety, fatigue or overall lack of energy
Want to know more about your risk for heart disease? Take a free HeartAware online risk assessment. Learn more about our cardiac care at UNC Rex Healthcare and UNC Medical Center or find a cardiologist near you.
How Are Heart Attacks Diagnosed
If you think you might be having a heart attack, you need to head to a hospital straight away. There, a doctor will assess your symptoms and check your vital signs blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
There are several tests that help indicate if youve had a heart attack, and whether damage was caused, such as:
- electrocardiogram electrical leads are placed on your chest, arms and legs to record the electrical signals travelling through your heart muscle
- CT scan or MRI scan
Monday 25 October 2021
Did you know that common emergency symptoms can differ for men and women? Often chest pain is thought to be the most common symptom for a heart attack and it is common in men. However, only about half of all women who have a heart attack actually report having chest pain.
Early treatment is critical for both heart attacks and strokes, two of Australias biggest killers. Knowing the common emergency symptoms and seeking immediate medical attention could save your life or save your loved one.
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How Does Heart Disease Affect Men
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 382,776 men in 2020thats about 1 in every 4 male deaths.1
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American or Pacific Islander men, heart disease is second only to cancer.2
- About 1 in 13 white men and 1 in 14 black men have coronary heart disease. About 1 in 17 Hispanic men have coronary heart disease.3
- Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.4 Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.
What Should I Do If I Think Im Having A Heart Attack
The first thing you must do is dial 999 immediately for an ambulance. Dont worry if youre not completely sure whether your symptoms are a heart attack, its really important that you seek medical attention regardless as quickly as possible.
Next, you should:
- take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within arms reach
- stay calm and wait for the paramedics.
People often dismiss that theyre having a heart attack and will delay seeking medical attention. If youre with someone whos experiencing heart attack symptoms but theyre putting off or refusing to call an ambulance, its really important that you call one for them.
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Can Aspirin Help Reduce The Damage Or Severity Of A Heart Attack
If taken daily, aspirins anti-clotting functionality can help prevent a first or subsequent heart attack. However, Taking aspirin daily is not recommended for those who have not had a stroke or been diagnosed with heart disease. Speak to your doctor before taking aspirin daily.
If taken during a heart attack, aspirin slows clotting and decreases the size of the forming clot.
Why Are Men And Women Different
Womens experience of heart attacks and heart disease differ from men because:
- Womens symptoms of heart disease can arise at a much later stage in the illness than men
- Womens symptoms can be milder, vague or unusual
- Some tests used to diagnose heart disease are less accurate in women than in men
- In the event of a heart attack, women are also less likely than men to seek help quickly
- There is also less awareness of the risk and different warning signs of heart attack and heart disease in females.
Because heart disease in women often goes undetected which can delay treatment, the damage caused can be more advanced and outcomes can be poorer than for men.
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What Happens During A Heart Attack
When a heart attack happens, blood flow to a part of your heart stops or is far below normal, which causes that part of your heart muscle to die. When a part of your heart cant pump because its dying from lack of blood flow, it can disrupt the pumping sequence for the entire heart. That reduces or even stops blood flow to the rest of your body, which can be deadly if it isnt corrected quickly.
What’s The Difference Between Indigestion And A Heart Attack
Indigestion, or heartburn, is a feeling that usually comes on after eating. It causes a burning and uncomfortable sensation in your chest and abdomen, and often a sour taste in your mouth.If you havent experienced heartburn or indigestion before and you’re experiencing persistent burning chest pain or chest pain combined with other heart attack symptoms, phone 999 immediately.If youre prone to heartburn or indigestion and youre experiencing the same symptoms as usual, take the steps you usually would to ease your discomfort, such as taking some medicine and/or drinking water.If the burning feeling in your chests persists, or it begins to spread to your arms, neck or jaw, phone 999 immediately as you may be having a heart attack.
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What To Do If You Experience Heart Attack Symptoms
Unlike the classic crushing chest pain, these symptoms dont guarantee that your heart is in immediate danger. But they could indicate that trouble could be brewing down the road, so make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can.
If youre fortunate enough to have symptoms, listen to your body and get them checked out, Park says.
If your doctor suspects that a heart attack could be looming, he might recommend an EKG, a test measures the hearts electrical activity and shows if your heart is damaged. He might also call for a coronary angiogram, which detects blockages in your arteries.
And if you experience any classic symptoms that signal youre having a heart attack right now, call 911 ASAP. These include chest pressure or tightness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, breaking out into a cold sweat, or discomfort in the arms, neck, or jaw.
Of course, the best way to prevent a heart attack is to improve overall health by lowering high blood pressure, maintaining a normal body weight, and abstaining from smoking.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Heart Disease
To reduce your chances of getting heart disease, its important to do the following:8
- Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms so its important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Learn more about high blood pressure.
- Talk to your health care provider about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.9 Learn more about diabetes.
- Quit smoking. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, learn ways to quit.
- Discuss checking your cholesterol and triglyceride levels with your health care provider. Learn more about cholesterol.
- Make healthy food. Having overweight or obesity raises your risk of heart disease. Learn more about overweight and obesity.
- Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day. Learn more about alcohol.
- Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress. Learn more about coping with stress.
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Early Signs Of Heart Disease
The first sign of heart disease is often a heart attack or other serious event. But, there are a few important signs that can help you recognize problems before they come to a head.
In the early stages, symptoms that seem like mere annoyances may come and go. For example, you may have heart arrhythmias, which can cause:
- difficulty catching your breath after moderate physical exertion, like walking up a flight of stairs
- a sense of discomfort or squeezing in your chest that lasts for 30 minutes to a few hours
- unexplained pain in your upper torso, neck, and jaw
- a heartbeat that is faster, slower, or more irregular than usual
- dizziness or fainting
- changes in your extremities, such as pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, coldness, and weakness
- extreme fatigue
- irregular heartbeat
These symptoms can be signs that your blood vessels have narrowed. This narrowing, which can be caused by plaque buildup, makes it more difficult for your heart to circulate oxygenated blood throughout your body.
In addition to the above symptoms, heart disease caused by an infection of the heart can include dry cough, fever, and skin rashes.
A cluster of risk factors may also signal impending heart disease. For example, your risk of heart disease significantly increases if you have diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lower The Risk Factors You Can Control
The first step to lowering cardiovascular risk is to raise your awareness of the risk factors and symptoms that are particular to women. The next step is to take actions and practice daily behaviors that lower the risk factors you can control.
- Avoid smoking.
- Stick to a healthy, low-saturated-fat diet that is high in fiber and low in fatty, processed foods.
- Several times a week, follow a supervised exercise regimen that is both challenging and motivating:
- Benefits of regular exercise include lower blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes, healthier body weight, and stress reduction.
- Exercise at least 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes. Even better, build up to 4-6 times per week for 45 minutes or more.
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Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
In recent decades, scientists have realized that heart attack symptoms can be quite different for women than for men.
While pain and squeezing sensations in the chest are still the most common symptoms in women, many frequently self-reported symptoms differ greatly from those common in men. Lack of knowledge about the differences in symptoms across genders may be one of the reasons why women generally wait longer than men do to seek out care if they suspect they are having a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
- unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
- jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
- pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
Base your decision to seek care on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you are experiencing symptoms that feel new to you, and dont agree with your doctors conclusion, get a second opinion.
What Are The Early Signs Of A Heart Attack
There are heart attack symptoms in women that are different from heart attack symptoms in men. But the common signs and symptoms they usually share are as follows:
- Chest pain or discomfort: The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or it may go away and come back. The discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain at the center of the chest.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: This may include pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, stomach or in one or both arms.
- Shortness of breath: This may occur with, before or without chest pain or discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Nausea or light-headedness
Meanwhile, heart attack symptoms in women sometimes go unnoticed. These include the following:
- Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw
- Unusual fatigue
- Treating or managing conditions that can be a risk factors of heart attack such as diabetes
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How To Help Someone Else Cope After A Heart Attack
You can support your loved ones by:
- Asking them what they need and how you can help them in consultation with their medical professionals.
- Getting information from their health care providers on helping the person work towards a healthier lifestyle.
- Educate yourself on heart attack symptoms, so you can support them if it happens again.
- Providing emotional support by being there to talk or encouraging them to seek counselling if theyd prefer to speak with a professional.
- Being aware of your own emotions and taking care of yourself.
Is It Heartburn Or A Heart Attack
The most common sign of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain. But knowing whether the pain is a true warning sign of heart attack or a bout of indigestion may not always be obvious.
If your pain is similar to heartburn, but it seems worse or different than what you normally experience, you should get emergency help. This is especially important if you’re experiencing other symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea or pain that moves into your shoulder and arm.
Its best to pay attention when something does not feel right. Its better to visit an ER and find out its simply heartburn than to ignore the symptoms and find out too late that its serious.
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What Are The 4 Signs Of An Impending Heart Attack
The four main signs of an oncoming heart attack are very mild, hardly noticeable versions of the primary heart attack symptoms in men.
The two most common early signs that are also heart attack symptoms include:
However, the other two symptoms tend to vanish when the heart attack begins. These include:
The reason behind these symptoms is not fully understood. Nausea could be the bodyâs response to elevated heart rates. The body may think that you have ingested something poisonous, and itâs attempting to remove it.
General discomfort is likely due to inadequate oxygen levels reaching different parts of the body, resulting in strange feelings around the body.
In general, both men and women experience similar heart attack symptoms. There are a few heart attack symptoms that are unique to women. Aside from those, the signs of an impending heart attack are the same for both sexes.
According to the Marshfield Clinic, there are a couple of signs to determine whether someone is experiencing cardiac arrest:
- âSudden loss of responsiveness the victim does not awaken or respond to first tapping on his or her shoulders while you ask, âAre you all right?â
- No normal breathing the victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt his or her head up and check for air movement for 5 seconds.ââ
Sign Of Potential Heart Attack: You Feel Sick To Your Stomach
Sometimes nausea, indigestion, or a burping feeling that wont go away is just a sign of a stomach bug. But it can also signal a problem with your heart.
The nervous system sometimes confuses signals coming from various parts of the body, says Park. The nerves in your gastrointestinal tract are closely intertwined with the nerves from the heart. As a result, a problem that could be brewing in your heart can sometimes translate as stomach discomfort, he explains.
Theres a way to tell a stomach bug from something more serious, though. Usually nausea caused by an impending heart attack will get worse with physical exertion and ease up when you rest.
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When Can I Resume My Usual Activities
Recovery from a heart attack after youre released from the hospital depends on the severity of the heart attack, how soon treatment began, methods used and the health conditions you had if any before your heart attack. Your healthcare provider can explain the next steps for your recovery and what you can expect. In general, most people can return to work or resume their usual activities anywhere between two weeks to three months after their heart attack.
When Should I See My Doctor
If calling triple zero does not work on your mobile, try calling 112. Early treatment could save a life.
See your doctor regularly to manage your general health, test for heart disease risk factors and help you take steps to prevent a heart attack.
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Why Should I Call 911 If I Can Drive Myself To The Hospital
If you have any symptoms of a heart attack, its best to call 911 for multiple reasons:
- First responders can do some of the early testing and treatment for a heart attack on the way to the hospital. This can speed up the overall diagnosis and treatment process.
- If you come into the hospital by ambulance, you usually have more immediate access to care. When youre having a heart attack, every second matters.
- Heart attacks can cause your heart to beat irregularly or stop entirely, either of which could cause you to pass out. If youre in an ambulance when that happens, first responders can react immediately to stabilize you. You also wont have to worry about passing out behind the wheel and causing a crash that could have devastating consequences for yourself or others.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A blocked artery needs immediate care to prevent permanent heart damage. You may think that if your symptoms are not intense and severe, youre not having a heart attack. However, its best to get your symptoms checked. Calling 911, rather than driving yourself or having someone else drive you, can be even more life-saving than you think. Time saved is heart muscle saved, and that means you have a better chance of a good outcome.